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“Slavery Was a Choice”: Blacks Defend Confederate Symbols



by G. Brown

All the debates, arguments and protests over Confederate statues and symbols have exposed a festering wound that many thought had healed.  Those in favor in the monuments and flags say it’s about preserving history, those opposed say its about preserving racism.  The two sides are passionate about their arguments, but it isn’t a clearly black and white issue.

Those in favor of keeping the relics of racial pain are primarily White people, but not all of them.  Many people may remember hearing about Karen Cooper, a Black woman who lived in Virginia.  Cooper was interviewed for a documentary titled “Battle Flag” because of her unique perspective on the Confederate flag.  Cooper was quoted in the NY Daily News saying,”I actually think that it represents freedom, It represents a people who stood up to tyranny.”  Cooper drew some angry push back when she declared, “Slavery was a choice“.  Cooper relies on a famous words of founding father Patrick Henry to finish her argument…”‘Give me liberty, or give me death.’ If we went back to that kind of slavery — no I couldn’t do it. Give me death‘”  Cooper But Cooper says she feels like a slave today because the federal government controls what she can drink, whether she can smoke and even what to put into her body.

Cooper’s specific reasoning is not shared by many Blacks, but others have come up with reasons of their own why Confederate monuments need to be revered not removed.  Former Atlanta Mayor and lifelong civil rights activist Andrew Young has come to the defense of a carving known as the Confederate Mount Rushmore.  The Confederate Memorial chiseled into Stone Mountain  took more than 12 years to finally complete in 1972.  Confederate figures President Jefferson Davis and Generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson tower 400 feet above ground overlooking thousands of tourists who visit the landmark each year. The battle to remove the memorial has seen a resurgence in the last few years, but the only way to remove it would be with the approval of state lawmakers.  Young calls the memorial “a tremendous carving” that he doesn’t “want to see destroyed.”

Blacks like Young and Cooper make up about 44 percent of the African American community that wants to see such monuments protected.  That’s according to an NPR/PBS NewsHour poll which says about “40 percent” of Blacks want to see all signs of the Confederacy removed and nationwide, “6 in 10 Americans say the monuments should remain“.

Many of these symbols have stood silent and idle for decades until the horrible protests in Charlottesville seemed to awaken slumbering pangs of hate and division.  The other day, a pick-up truck drove pass me on the highway with the Confederate battle flag attached to its rear and the words, “If this offends you, you don’t know history.”  But  it’s because I do know history that the Confederate flag and monuments offend me. I know the battle flag’s creator originally called it the ‘White man’s flag’–a name that makes it clear this flag does not represent people of color.  I know that for almost 80 years after the Civil War, the Confederate flag was pretty much reserved for remembering the fallen until around 1948.  That’s when the U.S. first began efforts towards desegregation and equality.  The Confederate flag was dusted off and brought back as a battle flag again by segregationists and Dixie-crats who adopted the flag as their new symbol.  Soon, the KKK and other racists groups embraced the Confederate flag as a symbol of opposition to Blacks where it is often brandished at protests like the one recently in Charlottesville.   I know enough history about the Confederate flag and symbols to know that this is not about embracing history and culture.  It is about racism and hatred.

What do you think….should Confederate symbols be preserved or removed?  If the symbols are removed, does it endanger other monuments to historical figures like George Washington and  Martin Luther King?



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  28. DJ

    August 25, 2017 at 12:21 pm

    It’s funny though. The movement to erect this sculpture was renewed after a 40 year hiatus in 1964 in response to progress made by Civil Rights activists of that era, which included Young. Those who raised money to have it built wanted an immortal symbol of White Supremacy. They wanted to oppose the work being done by people like Andrew Young. Now, he wants to save it, rather than imagining a new symbol there. Interesting.

  29. DJ

    August 25, 2017 at 11:49 am

    I can see why Young does not want to remove the Confederate Rushmore. It is an awesome artistic display and to remove it would leave a gaping hole where some awesome art is now. Perhaps money could be raised, and the piece could be redone so that something more appropriate and equally as awesome is placed there — maintaining the integrity of the venue. Perhaps something that also included a great woman this time. Lee, Jackson and Davis though need to go. Aside from being traitors, they are part of a very ugly part of American history and they represent the opposite of American values. I remember attending a concert at Stone Mountain and looking up at the relief statue of these guys and thinking “Damn, this would be an awesome night if I was not forced to look up at these hoodlums who wanted to enslave and who killed so many of my ancestors.” Good riddance to them.

  30. DJ

    August 25, 2017 at 11:38 am

    I think that the statues should be placed in a museum and not destroyed, as there should be some memory of them so that we don’t forget. I also think that some should be removed and some should not be. Statues of Lee, Davis and Jackson have to go as they were traitors to our nation. Others should be up for debate.

    The idea of conflating White Power with Black Power is inaccurate though. They were two different movements started for two different reasons. Their aims were different. The White Power Movement promotes hatred and seeks to enslave non-Whites under the banner of White Supremacy. The Black Power Movement was a fight for freedom and equality and intended Whites no particular harm.

    • The Reel Network

      August 25, 2017 at 6:39 pm

      @ DJ Hi DJ I love the points you make here in delineating between the White Power and Black Power movements. You’re right, one was motivated by hate and the other by the quest for equality. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts DJ.

  31. NBA is fixed

    August 24, 2017 at 11:56 pm

    The Confederate flag is a symbol of treason. Robert E Lee, General Stonewall Jackson and Confederate President Jefferson Davis committed treason against America.

  32. NBA is fixed

    August 24, 2017 at 11:55 pm

    Was it a choice when 14 year old Sally Hemmings was raped by President Thomas Jefferson? Was it a choice when millions of black people were kidnapped and enslaved by racist white people? This woman is an idiot!

    • The Reel Network

      August 25, 2017 at 6:36 pm

      @NBA is fixed Hi NBA Excellent arguments…a choice is whether you want to have chicken or fish…whether to buy the blue scarf or the red one…no one said ‘you can be a slave or not’. Thanks as always NBA.

  33. Valerie

    August 24, 2017 at 10:58 pm

    Get real here taken from your country and put to slavery isn’t a choice. You have women and children and little boys was raped.And beaten. And killed

    • The Reel Network

      August 25, 2017 at 6:34 pm

      @Valerie Hi Valerie, The only thing more appalling than this woman’s “slavery is a choice” quote is the choice of death. Does she realized that if her ancestors made that “choice” then she wouldn’t have been alive to espouse her the Confederates were heroes theory? Thanks so much for taking the time to share your thoughts Valerie…take care.

  34. Nyabinghi Djehutti

    August 24, 2017 at 9:52 pm

    I think what’s at issue here is freedom of expression, which comes with it, the freedom to offend. Limiting or disallowing expression of ideologies is a violation of civil rights and an example of the tyranny that the Constitution is supposed to prevent. The Confederate states wanted to secede due to a disagreement of ideology regarding state’s rights and the Union went to war in order to prevent them. The Confederate flag represents the rebellion to tyranny, regardless of what it represents to others regarding slavery.

    America was a nation built on slavery, which means that technically EVERY AMERICAN SYMBOL AND MONUMENT represents the enslavement of Africans. The abolition of slavery in only the Confederate states was merely a war strategy. Therefore all American iconography would have to be redesigned to represent a post slavery country.

    Naturally black people are going to be uncomfortable with the concept of white supremacy, just as white people are uncomfortable with the concept of black power. No one wants to be dominated or ruled by another. However, if blacks and whites were to thoroughly intermingle, there would only be brown people and racism would be moot. Of course this is what white supremacists fear most.

    We live in a country where people choose to ignore the cultural reality. White supremacy is a functional part of our society. Slavery reparations were never made, so we have yet to create a so-called post slavery society. The civil rights movement only served to embarrass racists, but it did not dismantle the systemic racism in America.

    Most Confederate monuments were erected long after the civil war and in response to the civil rights movement. Though they were erected with the intent to intimidate and honor the heroes of white supremacy, they serve the purpose of never allowing blacks to forget who they are dealing with and what they are struggling against. Destroying the symbols of white supremacy is not going to make white supremacy go away. It only lulls black people into complacency and creates the illusion of a post racial society. It renders the enemy invisible.

    When black people choose to disregard their past because it makes them uncomfortable, then it renders them emotionally unprepared when confronted with white supremacy and racially offensive expression. It makes them easily incited to violence. They find it difficult to strategically choose their battles. Self-control is key in maintaining one’s freedom to fight with effective means. Malcolm X said, “By any means necessary.” The key word being “necessary.” Many people interpret this as meaning violence, but violence is rarely necessary. Restraint is highly necessary and this is what he taught. It’s chess, not checkers.

    People need to learn to control their reaction to offenses and develop the emotional maturity to address difference of opinion and perspective rationally and without violence. Violence is the tool of the immature and intellectually incompetent.

    Might does not make right and does not change minds. The resentment it harbors creates only the illusion of victory. The only way to sway opinion and cultivate cultural maturity is by the exchange of information and perspective which can only be maintained by allowing freedom of expression.

    I’d rather reserve the right to rally round the red, gold, black, and green, than to create an environment where I am not free to express myself because I sought to limit the expression of others. I’d rather be able to recognize who I am dealing with by virtue of their symbols and expression. One can’t will others out of existence by disallowing that which makes them recognizable. If you have an opponent, it’s best that they are not camuflaged. Keep them recognizable.

    There will come a time when all will agree to move Confederate monuments to museums, but that will be after the ideology of white supremacy is rendered moot, intellectually and culturally. Melanate humanity. ?

    • The Reel Network

      August 25, 2017 at 6:27 pm

      @ Nyabinghi Djehutti Hi Nyabinghi Always a pleasure to read your comments which are so sound and thorough in presentation. I see your point that this debate is at its core about freedom of expression, but I think the disclaimer here is whether these monuments are on public property or private…which point most of those who want these monuments removed are trying to make. Just like some people argued that they didn’t want Bible quotes and scripture, like the 10 Commandments displayed outside of state and federal buildings, neither should these symbols of White supremacy be forced as a belief on general public. Freedom of expression should always be protected, but not forced upon other. It’ll be interesting to see how this civil war over civil war relics and symbols ends. Thanks as always for your insight…take care.

  35. Sharon Hawkins

    August 24, 2017 at 8:59 pm

    I think they should be put in a museum, just like black history and others. So they should be removed, because if everyone put up monuments and flags of their history, around this country they would be marching and protesting like they are doing as of now. Oh forgot we were pretty robbed of ours.

  36. Sharon Hawkins

    August 24, 2017 at 8:42 pm

    Are they kidding me, how was slavery a choice. So being lynched and raped and God knows what else is a choice also huh. Get the hell out of here , brainwashed is definitely what they are, those black men and women fought to get you out of slavery. Not to keep you bound and chain like an animal wow some people are really weak minded. So very sad

    • The Reel Network

      August 25, 2017 at 6:12 pm

      @ Sharon Hawkins Hi Sharon…I had the same response to that “Slavery is a Choice” comment…unreal. Yet, she later claims that she is still a slavery to federal government–but apparently she chooses to be. Her logic isn’t. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts Sharon.

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